Congress is considering new legislation to promote the use of electronic medication systems and other technologies designed to reduce the risk of drug prescribing and dispensing errors.

The plan, advanced by Sen Arlen Spector (R, Pa), is part of broader legislation aimed at granting the Department of Health and Human Services fresh authority to negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers to lower the cost of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

According to Spector, reducing medication mix-ups and other medical errors would also produce massive cost savings for the nation?a total of $150 billion over the next 10 years alone.

His bill provides grants for demonstration programs to test best practices for reducing errors, testing the use of appropriate technologies to reduce medical errors, such as electronic medication systems, and research in geographically diverse locations to determine the causes of medical errors.

"The implementation of automated prescription drug dispensers will prevent adverse drug reactions, which in turn can cause further illness resulting in increased care needed to correct the error," he told Congress.